Thoughts On Covid-Infused November And Thankfulness

There has been much going on and many thoughts swirling around as I struggle to assemble something coherent for what used to be the biggest shopping day of the year for some – and recovering from acute carbohydrate poisoning for others. November, Turkey, Covid – somehow it all fits.

It’s a good Thanksgiving in the US is celebrated this weekend. This thought occurred to me on a cold, rainy morning this week as I prepared to get to work. Without Thanksgiving there is nothing good to be said about late November. And this year there seems to be little good about Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving was a big holiday in my youth – on my father’s side of the family, especially. My paternal grandfather was born and raised a New Englander, so Thanksgiving had deep roots in our clan.

As Marianne and I have gotten older we have often taken on the task of hosting Thanksgiving dinner. Children, children’s boy/girlfriends, brothers, sisters, and even the occasional neighbor have filled our dining room table as we enjoy a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner done in full traditional style.

This year we did the holiday by ourselves. As we discussed how we might pare down the food selections to something that joined a manageable workload to an appropriate scale, Costco came to our rescue with a pre-prepared Thanksgiving dinner with a half stuffed turkey breast, mashed potatoes and green beans, all handily packaged in disposable foil baking dishes. They even threw in the cranberry sauce (“Caution – remove before baking”). As this is being written our Costco Thanksgiving remains in the refrigerator, making possible in our imaginations the Best Thanksgiving Dinner Ever. I can come back in the comments to share the reality.

You might think that the prospect of baking a store-bought meal kit and eating it by ourselves on a dreary late November day might be the Worst Thanksgiving Ever. But you would be wrong. I may be the only person in the United States who consider this year’s Thanksgiving as an upgrade over the 2019 version.

We had plans in place for the full deal with family and all to attend. I still recall running the vacuum during some last-minute spiff-up before we got down to some serious food prep in mid-afternoon on Thanksgiving Eve, when two things happened. First, our power went out. Ours is an older neighborhood with wires strung on poles instead of buried underground, and our wires are constantly menaced by limbs from the many, many tall trees in the area that miraculously avoid periodic butchering trimming by the power company. It was while we contemplated our options for candlelight meal preparation that I got the call.

My mother’s care facility called with news that she had taken a bad turn and that there was concern that this could be the time we had been simultaneously hoping for and dreading. Five years of dealing with progressive dementia will encourage both of those feelings.

I threw some things into a bag and Marianne and I agreed that I would call later so that we could make a game-day decision about what to do about a Thanksgiving dinner that was on the five yard line and under center. I’m not the biggest football fan in the world, but if you can’t use football metaphors about Thanksgiving, when can you ever use them?

I spent the night in a chair by her bed as her failing body kept triggering one breath after another, in the way all who knew her expected of her dogged German constitution. By early Thanksgiving morning Marianne and I determined over the telephone to scrub mission. I think I had the easy job – Marianne got to call everyone and tell them there would be no Thanksgiving dinner that day.

Mom (temporarily) rallied by Saturday and those of us in the immediate family proceeded with a simplified, quick-ish version of Thanksgiving Dinner on Sunday. That mini-holiday was followed by a funeral a couple of weeks later.

So as bad as things may be for Thanksgiving 2020, there is a lot to appreciate this year. Our dinner may be simple and our family may not be with us, but it beats spending time separated with one of us on a recliner in a nursing home. The purpose of Thanksgiving is to be thankful, and in our case there is plenty to be thankful for, Covid precautions and all.

21 thoughts on “Thoughts On Covid-Infused November And Thankfulness

  1. J.P., I know what you went through. My father had a stroke the day before Thanksgiving a decade ago & our family shuttled between my brother’s house & the hospital that day. He passed away several days later.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We did. And the Costco turkey dinner was quite nice. Though not to the standards of our homemade stuff (OK, mostly Marianne’s homemade stuff, although I usually do the potatoes) it was pretty good. And a whole lot easier.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The day my Dad passed was the day after my parents had come to our house for an Easter dinner. So at least we got to be together on his second to last day. In any event, death is part of life but that doesn’t make it easier to accept.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Indeed, this does sound like a much better Thanksgiving for you.

    In 2005 we spent Thanksgiving Day at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. Then three year-old daughter had profound sleep apnea and had her tonsils removed the day before. My meal was alone in the hospital cafeteria reading a car magazine. Wife’s was the profoundly salty turkey sandwich I took back to the room.

    Certainly not as bad as your 2019, but both were memorable for all the wrong reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, there remains much to be thankful for. I hope your small scale dinner was good, I’ll be missing the green beans with canned crispy onions on top that my Michigan mother in law makes. Introvert me is even looking forward to large scale gatherings next year.

    It’s a small mercy that our mothers are not here to experience the pandemic. A friend has his mother on a dementia care ward and it’s been very confusing for her and difficult for the family. Had my own mum been here and healthy she would have been rather furious at having to skip Myrtle Beach, but could have cranked out a lot of masks on her sewing machine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my yes – that thought has crossed my mind many times. I have no idea how we would have coped had Mom survived into this year. Dementia is a challenge under the best of conditions, so I cannot imagine how awful it would be during Covid restrictions.

      We introverts have coped pretty well, but I agree – there can be too much of a good thing.

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  5. That’s a sad story JP. I guess we need to be grateful for ordinary days and small blessings….if everyone is well and healthy that’s all that counts, even if they are apart. (I had a doctor friend who used to say on rounds that it was a great day if it wasn’t Monday, it wasn’t snowing and no one was dying that day, said in a Scottish brogue.) We often do a double turkey breast, less fuss and mess and still some for for leftovers, but recently I saw an ad for a takeout turkey dinner for 6 for $99 and thought that’s a great idea too! .

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wasn’t trying to dwell on how bad last Thanksgiving was but to find the good in this year. I still prefer the traditional celebration but we did OK. Our only fail was the decision to not bake a pie. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. It is good you put it in perspective JP … that will get you through this holiday where you traditionally gather around the table with family and friends. I have no family now, but for years my mom and I had a feast of ribs at The Boneyard, weather permitting – if we had snow/ice or rain, then it would be a turkey breast and scaled-down version of a traditional dinner trimmings. Hopefully Thanksgiving and Christmas 2021 will be back to normal once again. Our neighborhood has the same overhead power lines and old trees, similarly butchered/trimmed by our energy provider to look like a row of slingshots to thwart power line issues.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have been blessed to sit at many a packed dining room table for Thanksgivings over the years, on both my own and Marianne’s sides of the family, so I guess I can’t complain when I have to do without for one year. When my mother got older but still wanted to get the family together we would congregate at Cracker Barrel where they put out a pretty good Thanksgiving dinner. My only gripe is that my northern taste buds are not programmed for cornbread stuffing. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Costco! Did not even think to consider that option for a prepared meal. Our local newspapers were pushing grocery stores (sold out) and restaurants (too expensive) so we gave up and cooked the meal anyway. Sounds like Costco’s fare was mediocre so maybe we didn’t miss much after all. Surely it was better than the offerings of Banquet or Swanson’s (are those even still around?)

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a good question – I am all about comfort and convenience foods, but I have been pretty good at avoiding the TV Dinner section o my grocer’s freezer. That is one food selection from my youth that I am happy to have left behind.

      I cannot complain about the Costco offering at all. It has reheated well so that Thanksgiving dinner goes on for two or three days just as always. I guess when my biggest complaint is that the gravy is not salty or fatty enough, things are OK. Also, I never would have thought about them either had I not been there and stumbled across it. A quick cell phone call later and one was in my cart. It was a lot easier than the frozen turkey breast we had been planning on.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Also JP, I think you mentioned earlier the (pumpkin?) pie was the one real disappointment in Costco’s meal. That surprises me. We always steer clear of their pies because not only do they look great, they look big enough to feed an army. We’d probably have a piece or two and then throw out way too much pie.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Actually, our problem was that there was no pie – and I knew this when I bought it. It only became a problem after sitting in a recliner patting my tummy after dinner. *Then* I realized that I should have made plans for a pie. So that’s on me, not Costco. The problem with their pies is, as you say, they are huge. The other problem is that Marianne and (especially) I would eat every slice.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. In Canada, we celebrated Thanksgiving in October. We were not permitted gatherings in Quebec with the hope that COVID numbers would go down and we would be able to gather at Christmas. This week, we learned that would not be the case. I listened to our Premier’s announcement on Facebook and the public reaction was nasty – there is no other word for it. Your post points out that there are a lot worse things than being asked to celebrate quietly at home with only members of your household, while knowing that other family members are safe and healthy. Thanks for a little perspective!

    Liked by 2 people

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